Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43
One hundred and ten years ago, in his first encyclical, Pope Pius X said that he didn’t want to be Pope because he was: terrified beyond all else by the disastrous state of human society today. For who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is - apostasy from God... . This holy man could clearly see that to desert God was to court disaster: "For behold they that go far from you shall perish" (Ps 72:17).
Now if you are one of those puzzling individuals who cannot see anything especially wrong with the condition of modern society, or who cannot see any approaching perils, or who continues to cling to a kind of compulsive optimism which is stubbornly determined to look on ‘the bright side’ of every clear sign of impending disaster and destruction for humanity – then you will find these words of Pope Pius X entirely baffling. And, no doubt, you will go on ‘eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building’ (Lk 17:28) as the people in Lot’s day..
But perhaps you may be moved by the words of Pope Pius XI who, in 1925 could see even more clearly the increasing degeneration afflicting society. In his encyclical Quas Primas, he wrote: In the first encyclical letter which We addressed at the beginning of Our Pontificate to the Bishops of the universal Church, We referred to the chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind was labouring. And We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.
Apostasy from God ... For behold they that go far from Thee shall perish (Ps 72:17).
And then only last week Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio delivered an address to the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). In his address the Nuncio quoted these lines spoken by Pope John Paul II in 1978: We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God’s Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously…
I believe Pope John Paul II was perfectly right and that his words come from a wisdom and an inspiration which is more than merely human wisdom. I believe also that, as things stand, good is losing; evil is winning.
Of course, you are perfectly free to go on pretending that it isn’t so: that the world is no more in the grip of evil than it ever was. Pope John Paul disagrees with you – and so did Pope Pius XI. And that’s why he instituted the Feast of Christ the Universal King, the feast we celebrate today.
Like most papal encyclicals it was read mainly by the intelligentsia in the Church and not by ordinary Catholics. But the encyclical still had extraordinary power because it also instituted a feast: the Feast of Christ the King. He said at the time: Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ.
The Pope goes on to show at some length how the sacred scriptures in both the Old and the New Testaments bear witness to the truth that Christ is the Universal King and therefore has supreme and absolute dominion over all things created.
We Catholics have been, in a sense, duped by false ecumenism into believing that Jesus Christ is King only for those who like to think of him in that way. We say, ‘He is our king. He is king of the Catholics’ but in reality is he king of the Hindus, the Protestants, the Buddhists and the Moslems too. He is King of the whole human race; indeed, heis King of the entire Cosmos – the only way to the Father (cf. John 14:6) – the only name under heaven by which we can be saved (cf. Acts 4:12) and his kingdom will have no end (cf. Lk 1:33).
I am going to leave you with a question to which I will suggest an answer. What change can I make today in my outlook as a Catholic to begin to make the truth of Christ’s Universal kingship real in my life. My suggested answer is this: Begin to love his Church with the love with which she deserves to be loved – total, obedient, faithful love.
The Catholic Church is the kingdom of Christ on earth. Are you comfortable with that truth or does it make you squirm? I assure you it is orthodox Church teaching. Christ as our Redeemer purchased the Church at the price of his own blood and planted her in this dark world as a light on a hill. We are all children of the Church and we should love her because she is our mother.
And we are called to love one another as Christ has loved us and so to clear a way for the kingdom to grow strong among us – so that the kingdom of Christ may then grow among all men.